About Madagascar
Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic), is an Island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main Island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth largest Island in the world, and is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. Most notable are the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three endemic bird families and six endemic baobab species.
The Malagasy are of mixed Malayo-Indonesian and African-Arab ancestry. The French made the Island a protectorate in 1885, and then, in 1894–1895, ended the monarchy, exiling Queen Rànavàlona III to Algiers. A colonial administration was set up, to which the Comoro Islands were attached in 1908, and other territories later. In World War II, the British occupied Madagascar, which retained ties to Vichy France. Madagascar became an independent member of the community in 1960.
International and domestic flights come into Ivato airport, just north of Antananarivo. The airports in Mahajanga and Toamasina both handle flights from Réunion, Mauritius and the Comoros. Air Madagascar, Air France and Corsair, all operating flights from France, fly directly to Madagascar. There are now a few flights per week from Milan to Nosy Be or Île Sainte Marie in addition to flights from Munich or Rome to Antananarivo. The main hubs for flights to Madagascar are Johannesburg in South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya. Air Madagascar flies between Singapore and Antananarivo, with connections in Singapore to other Asian countries. Because Madagascar is so large, it experiences several climates simultaneously. The only time to avoid is January to March, when heavy rainfall in many areas of the country makes many roads muddy and impassable, limits outdoor activities and the risk of cyclones (particularly in the east and northeast of the country) is high. The coolest time to travel is during the winter months (May to October), when the Central Highlands (including Antananarivo) can get cold, wet and windy, although it can still be hot and sunny in the west and southwest. The Island's west and southwest get quite hot during summer (November to March), which can make moving around uncomfortable.
Madagascar Map
Background: Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1896, but regained its independence in 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held, ending 17 years of single-party rule. In 1997, in the second presidential race, Didier RATSIRAKA, the leader during the 1970s and 1980s, was returned to the presidency. The 2001 presidential election was contested between the followers of Didier RATSIRAKA and Marc RAVALOMANANA, nearly causing secession of half of the country. In April 2002, the High Constitutional Court announced RAVALOMANANA the winner. RAVALOMANANA is now in his second term following a landslide victory in the generally free and fair presidential elections of 2006.
Location: Southern Africa, Island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
Area: Total: 587,040 sq km, land: 581,540 sq km, water: 5,500 sq km
Coastline: 4,828 km
Climate: Tropical along coast, temperate inland, arid in south
Terrain: Narrow coastal plain, high plateau and mountains in center
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Maromokotro 2,876 m
Natural resources: Graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydropower
Land use: Arable land: 5.03%, permanent crops: 1.02%, other: 93.95% (2005)
Natural hazards: Periodic cyclones, drought, and locust infestation
Languages: English (official), French (official), Malagasy (official)
Ethnic groups: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%
Population: 19,448,815 (July 2007 est.)
Government type: Republic
Capital: Name: Antananarivo
Geographic coordinates: 18 55 S, 47 31 E
Time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Legal system: Based on French civil law system and traditional Malagasy law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Constitutional Court or Haute Cour Constitutionnelle
Driving People drive on the Right-hand side of the road and give way to the left.
Economy - overview: Having discarded past socialist economic policies, Madagascar has since the mid 1990s followed a World Bank- and IMF-led policy of privatization and liberalization. This strategy placed the country on a slow and steady growth path from an extremely low level. Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for more than one-fourth of GDP and employing 80% of the population. Exports of apparel have boomed in recent years primarily due to duty-free access to the US. Deforestation and erosion, aggravated by the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are serious concerns. President RAVALOMANANA has worked aggressively to revive the economy following the 2002 political crisis, which triggered a 12% drop in GDP that year. Poverty reduction and combating corruption will be the centerpieces of economic policy for the next few years.
GDP - composition by sector: $19.95 billion (2007 est.), agriculture: 27.3%, industry: 15.8%, services: 56.8% (2007 est.)
Industries:   Meat processing, seafood, soap, breweries, tanneries, sugar, textiles, glassware, cement, automobile assembly plant, paper, petroleum, tourism
Electricity 220 volts
Currency (code): Madagascar ariary (MGA)
Credit Cards Few places accept credit cards
VAT VAT - 18%
Telephone system general assessment: system is above average for the region; Antananarivo's main telephone exchange modernized, but the rest of the analogue-based telephone system is poorly developed; planning to add 50,000 new private-subscriber fixed lines beginning in 2005
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile telephone density only about 7 per 100 persons
international: country code - 261